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The Ambulatory

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Take a Midnight Tour Through the Ambulatory at the Holy Sepulcher

Location – Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Map Coordinates - 31.778460, 35.229556

There is a long, curved hallway that goes around the church in back of the main worship hall - the Catholicon. This hallway is called the Ambulatory. When you walk through it, starting from the Chapel of Adam, it is like a little miniature Via Dolorosa. There are three chapels on the right side of this hallway, and they tell the story of the sufferings of Jesus in chronological order from right to left. 

Besides the main character, Who is Jesus Himself, these three chapels all have two things in common. First, each chapel recalls an event that was prophesied in the Old Testament. Secondly, they are all about Roman soldiers. The story that is told in these chapels concludes with all of these Roman soldiers becoming believers in Christ.


The Glass Case with the Limestone Column.


A glass case with a limestone column from the hill of Golgotha.

The first thing you come to in the Ambulatory is a glass case, and inside of it there’s a column of limestone. This rock is part of the hill of Golgotha, the hill on which Jesus died. The church put a glass case around it, so that you could see part of this hill.

Most of the hill of Golgotha is gone today, but this is one part that still remains. Right above this rock is the chapel of Calvary, where Jesus died. The orange weathered chemical discoloration on this rock is not blood stains, but they do remind us that Jesus’ blood also flowed down from the cross onto the rocks of this hill.

The Chapel of the Derision.

Merged Gospels, Story - 276


The Chapel of the Derision.

Jesus sitting on the derision column.

What happened on this pillar was actually a fulfillment of a Biblical prophecy that was written down 700 years earlier. Isaiah 50:6 says “I offered My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who tore out My beard. I did not hide My face from scorn and spittle.” That is exactly what happened to Jesus. They hit Him, and they spat on Him. You can just imagine Jesus sitting on this pillar, receiving all this punishment that He didn’t deserve.

The Derision Column, where Jesus sat while being mocked by the soldiers.


The Paintings in the Chapel of the Derision.

Each picture is a fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy. The picture on the right shows Jesus during one of His trials where He is being mocked by the Jewish rulers. This was a fulfillment of verses from Psalm 27 and Psalm 35. The middle picture shows Jesus being seated on this granite pillar, and the crown of thorns being placed on His head. That was a fulfillment of prophecies in Psalms 35, 69 and Isaiah 50. The picture on the left shows Jesus walking through a crowd that is jeering Him and yelling at Him. That is a fulfillment of verses from Psalm 7 and Isaiah 53.

The Crown of Thorns.

Since at least around the year 400 there has been a relic believed by many to be the crown of thorns that Jesus wore. Since 1238 AD it has been in the possession of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. During the fire that occurred in the Notre Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019, it was rescued and moved to the Louver Museum in Paris.

However, this crown itself is a circle of Juncus balticus, a plant native to northern Britain, the Baltic region and Scandinavia. Experts have determined that it is a Byzantine forgery.

However, there are thorns in other locations (Arras, Lyons, Pisa, and Trier), supposedly plucked from the crown, and these are from a tree called Ziziphus spina-christi, which grows abundantly in and around Jerusalem. This tree is popularly known as the jujube tree. There is such a tree at the Mount of Beatitudes, and I once cut a snippet from this tree as one of my souvenirs of the Holy Land.

The Chapel of the Parting of the Robes (the middle chapel).

Merged Gospels, Story - 279

The Chapel of the Parting of the Robes.

The soldiers gamble for Jesus’ tunic.

When Jesus hung on the cross, the Roman soldiers tore His robe up into four parts. You can read about this in all four Gospels. And just like in the Chapel of the Derision, the tearing of these robes was also foretold in another Old Testament prophecy, and you can find that in Psalm 22:18. This prophecy says, “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

The soldiers divided up Jesus’ outer garment into four parts, and then had kind of a lottery drawing to see which one of them would walk away with His tunic, which He wore under His robe. His tunic didn’t have any seams. It was woven into one piece. And all four Gospel writers record this same event.

What does all that tell us? It tells us that Jesus was the Messiah Who was spoken about in the Old Testament. It’s amazing that there are hundreds of Scriptures about Jesus in the ancient Scriptures. There is only one person in the world who could have fulfilled all of these prophecies, and that is Jesus Himself. 

This passage also hints at how many soldiers there were guarding the cross of Jesus, because His garments were ripped up with one part being distributed to each of four soldiers. Perhaps also there were other soldiers present who did not participate in the division of the robe.

The Chapel of Longinus (the farthest chapel).

Merged Gospels, Story - 283

The Chapel of Saint Longinus.

When Jesus died, there was a soldier who jabbed a spear into Jesus’ side to see if He was really dead (see John 19:34). We know this soldier by the name of Longinus. Where did we learn the name of this man? It’s not in the Bible. Rather, it comes from a non-Biblical book that was written in the fourth century, called the Gospel of Nicodemus, Chapter 7 verse 8.  (This book was discovered in the year 715 AD.) Apparently, someone in the ancient Church knew the name of this soldier, and that’s how it ended up in the Gospel of Nicodemus. 

Saint Longinus spearing Jesus.

Saint Longinus.

According to Luke 23:47, the soldier who was standing right in front of Jesus when He died started praising God, saying “Certainly this Man was innocent.” Then in Matthew 27:54, we read that when those, “…who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely He was the Son of God!” 

Notice that this quote comes from all of the soldiers who were guarding Jesus – not just one soldier. 

Think about this. The Jewish rulers hated Jesus. But these guards were not Jews. They were Romans, and they were under no obligation to hate or reject Jesus as the Jewish rulers did. In other words, these soldiers were free to believe in Jesus if they chose to. Apparently, they all made the decision to do so.

The Confession of Saint Longinus.

Whatever happened to this soldier named Longinus? Tradition tells us that Longinus became a believer in Christ, probably not just because of this earthquake, but because he, being a soldier, probably also heard that this same Jesus rose from the dead three days later. 

Today Longinus, is considered to be a saint in many Christian denominations because he is believed to have converted to Christianity after the crucifixion. That’s why today there is a large statue of Longinus in Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. Tradition tells us that Longinus was martyred in Cappadocia.

Here’s the interesting part. When these guards said, “Surely He was the Son of God”, this means that Longinus and all the soldiers who were with him became the very first Romans to ever believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ – that Jesus was God’s divine Son.

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